Tag Archives: animal abuse

Helping Pets Also Helps Human Victims of Domestic Violence

In a home that offers little human comfort, and where, instead, there are humans that control other family members through domestic violence, a pet maybe the only source of comfort a victim has.

Leaving the one source of comfort behind with an abuser can prevent human victims of domestic violence from getting help for themselves. Can you blame them?

Few domestic violence shelters offer on site accommodations for pets. There is a growing number of shelters, however, that connect with local animal rescues to find foster homes for pets while a human victim seeks shelter. The video above talks about how important that connection is.

Thanks to my friends Diane and Cosmo for sharing the video with me. I think it really gets the message across. We need to do more to help domestic violence victims seek safety for themselves by offering reassurance that their pets can be safe too.

Wanna pledge your support to Okey’s Promise? Every little bit helps! Make your pledge here, and/or grab the widget to put on your website. Thanks for your support!


Violence hurts. Any kind and to any degree. To people and to animals.

I was interviewed on TPPCtv’s “Pets Teach Us So Much” blog talk radio show last Friday (follow the link to listen to the show). Robbie Everitt, one of the hosts asked me about serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer who are known to have started their killing sprees by harming animals.

I told her, yes, Dahmer was known to have tortured animals, and other mass murderers were known to have harmed animals. But it is not only the most extreme serial killers about whom we should be concerned. It is those people who are committing domestic violence regularly in their homes of whom we should be most concerned, as their actions are not as rare.

With information spilling out every day about the recent mass murder in Tucson, AZ and the alleged mass murderer, our fascination with the most extreme of human violence has again reached a fevered pitch. When someone does something so horrible and so dramatic as the Tuscon shooting, we cannot help but be intrigued.

There is still very little known about Jared Loughner, the alleged Tuscon killer. In regards to his relationship with animals, he reportedly enjoyed having his own pet dog, yet was relieved of his dog walking duties at a local animal shelter where he volunteered. According to news reports, he refused to stop walking dogs in an area that was contaminated with the parvovirus, a highly contagious and deadly disease for dogs.

I don’t know if that behavior puts Loughner in the category of what we would call an animal abuser. Certainly he was a troubled young man on many fronts.

But as attention grabbing as the headlines maybe of one person killing six and injuring 14 people, Loughner’s is not the only story of a troubled soul causing harm to others that has played out this week. As tragic as 9 year old Christina Green’s senseless death was, many other children have experienced violence over the past week–in their homes and in their communities. Their stories are going untold.

Yes, Jeffrey Dahmer and Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the DC Snipers, were known to have harmed animals in the lead up to their more serious crimes of serial murder. But these are the extremes that luckily, do not happen very frequently. Sadly, there are folks who are seemingly everyday people, possibly your neighbor or colleague, who DO perpetrate violence daily to animals, to children, to spouses and to romantic partners.

Their behaviors should be every bit as alarming as Loughner, Dahmer and Boyd.

When a person harms an animal, there is a strong likelihood that he or she will also harm defenseless human beings. In rare cases, that person may become a serial killer or mass murderer. In less rare cases, that person may become someone who causes severe emotional and physical pain to his/her family and loved ones. Both are serious, and both deserve our attention.

Will you help me get that message out there? Will you help me tell the stories that are going untold?

Certainly, we want to prevent troubled individuals from becoming mass murderers. But preventing animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence are primary concerns as well.


Please let me know if you know of a story that you would like to share of a child or other person who has been touched by violence, and whose story involves a connection between animal abuse and human interpersonal violence. I will be happy to share the story, and omit any identifying information at your request.

Does demonizing Michael Vick do anything productive?

A day doesn’t go by–scratch that. An hour doesn’t go by that I don’t see some post expressing outrage about Michael Vick crossing my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Since his story is one of such flagrant abuse to animals, I would be remiss not to enter into the discussion about it. My take, however, may be a bit different than most.

Let me get this straight at the outset. I am no defender of Michael Vick. His abuse of dogs was systematic torture and murder, and there is no defense for that. The animals he harmed are still suffering, and good-hearted rescuers are still laboring to meet the animals’ needs.

I don’t care much for Vick’s accomplishments on the football field either. The game holds little interest for me. Although as a counselor, I believe that people can redeem themselves, I have seen little to show me that Vick has moved towards redemption, other than getting back into the game of football.

With all that said, I wonder if we have missed opportunities to promote real change by focusing solely on our outrage at the man. By demonizing Vick and repeating the animal rights rally calls, are we really making a difference?

I ask you to consider looking deeper at what leads to the perpetuation of abuse to animals in our culture in the first place.

If you read about Vick’s youth, you will see an unpleasant story. Raised in a neighborhood rife with drug dealing and drive-by shootings as the norm, Vick had many red flags of concern in his upbringing. Neighborhoods such as his tend to have negative role models who use dogs for status and protection. Love and care for an animal would be considered “soft”.

Children who experience trauma as the result of domestic and community violence are at high risk for violent and delinquent behavior. Their tendency to perpetrate violence on animals is much greater than children who do not grow up experiencing trauma. Although Vick has not publicly acknowledged a specific trauma history, he has acknowledged using sports as a way to escape the chaos in his neighborhood.

Again, there is no excuse for his behavior, and despite his upbringing, he needs to be held accountable for his choices. Furthermore, I am making no diagnostic presumptions about the man.

My question is, what are we doing to prevent children faced with similar circumstances from taking a similar path?

What are we doing to intervene with children living in such pain that they would develop behaviors that put animals and other human beings at risk?

There are many children in our communities who are being raised in homes affected by violence and trauma. Some of these children live with fear that harm will come to a cherished pet. Some have witnessed an abuser causing direct harm to an animal. Some of these children re-enact their own pain on their own pets.

Although protocols for identification and intervention have been developed, little attention is paid in our society to the very clear connections between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence.

Imagine what we could do if we focused our outrage towards Vick towards something more productive–enhancing our child serving systems to be more equipped to deal with the collective concerns.

My hope is that Okey’s Promise is one way that we can redirect the energy towards positive change. Will you join me in redirecting the outrage to a more effective dialog?

We can’t do much to change Michael Vick at this stage in the game. But think of how many others whose lives we could change.

Let’s make a promise to do just that.


UPDATE: I have been challenged on my claim that Michael Vick has done little to move towards redemption. Some claim that he has made efforts though work with the Humane Society of the United States. Others question his authenticity and the Humane Society’s willingness to work with him. I make no judgment on this, as it truly is not the focus of this post. You can read the HSUS FAQ and decide for yourself. My hope, though, is that we will focus on prevention beyond the outrage with Okey’s Promise.